10 years ago, when UrbanWire first reported on the subculture of Cosplay (or costume play], there were Singaporeans who thought they resembled ghosts or that “the police ought to shoot them all”.
From that extreme view, we fast forward to last year at the SHINE Youth Festival 2011 organised by the National Youth Council, where 1,000 people came in costume as TV, anime or game characters and paraded proudly down Orchard Road.
Then, when even the national daily holds a cosplay contest as it did on Jul 15, during the Straits Times Appreciates Readers (Star) carnival, the hobby of dress up can be said to be truly accepted in the mainstream.
But what is it that draws adults, and increasingly men, to sew capes, glue accessories and don boots and wigs, especially when people are still more comfortable with women doing this?
Jason Koh, 30, who won the earlier mentioned Star carnival cosplay contest dressed as super villian Loki from The Avengers, traces his fascination to seeing other cosplayers at an event he was involved in: Miyuki Animation 2000.
He tells UrbanWire, “What really struck me was this group of people with costumes very ornate for that point in time, and it really inspired me.” Since then, when he was an intern with anime cable channel ANIMAX, he started making his costumes, including a pair of wings using trash bags, chicken wire mesh and many feather dusters.
The freelance copywriter and part-time lecturer at a private university, is the founder of the Neo Tokyo Project, which is organising the International Cosplay Day Singapore (ICDS) on Aug 26, in the Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) Convention Centre.
Photo credits to Mervyn Lim, Stillz & Motion & International Day Cosplay Singapore team.
It’s expected to pull in 3,000 people in no small part because Jason has secured special guests which include celebrity cosplayers based in the United States, Yaya Han and Jerry Polence, both of whom will be here in Singapore for the first time.
Other attractions are guests from the Philippines, Jay Tablante, and the cast and crew of COSPLAY: The Series from Indonesia. Expect also to see the best of East and West as Japanese animation, manga and more are brought together with American comics, novels, movies and the like, in this same event through a cosplay competition, a plethora of display and exhibition booths and even a catwalk on stage!
However, Jason’s family is “still a bit iffy” about him cosplaying. He said, “They wonder why I spend so much time making props and costumes, and they may think it’s like kids playing dress up, but [cosplay] is a performance art and commercially viable too.”
“Even though they are a lot less critical now, they still wonder why I haven’t been focusing on an ordinary 9-to-5 job,” said Jason. Indeed, he’s not the only one.
NP student Lin Sen, 19, said his parents think of cosplay as a “money-wasting hobby”, because costumes and props are not cheap. As for the social aspect, this hobby has also subjected him to some friends thinking of him as a “weirdo”, and despising him because he “dresses up and poses in front of so many people”.
It’s the same for 21-year-old National Serviceman (NSF) Gregory Yap, who has had people tell him that his hobby is “stupid”, and they would “use any opportunity possible to disturb [him]”. His parents are quite neutral about him cosplaying, but the hobbyist also said that occasionally, his father would “drop hints”, wanting him to stop cosplaying.
Perhaps it’s a matter of perseverance. Temasek Polytechnic student Elkanah Chan, 19, says, “In the beginning I was mocked by my friends for putting on makeup as it is not very normal for a guy, but when I was improving they started to support it. I guess that’s what you’ll get for joining a more ‘loud’ form of art.”
Nonetheless, these hobbyists have persisted in their choice, even choosing to spend less and save more just to fund their cosplaying. Another NSF Matthew Kuek, 20, said, “I would cut down on the amount of snacks that I buy, and go out less frequently so that I save about $80 to $100 a month.”
Besides showing the world that Singapore has what it takes to run a world class cosplay event, it is to give exposure to these younger, newer cosplayers, who are undeterred by parental and social pressures, that ICDS is being staged, Jason says.
“I didn’t have the chance to showcase my abilities and talents when I was younger, so since now I have the power, I would love to see younger and newer cosplayers be on stage.”
A ticket to The International Cosplay Day Singapore on Aug 26, at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Convention Centre costs $5 (with an additional booking fee of $1). Tickets can be purchased from Gatecrash Ticketing, Pan-In-The-Box (www.paninthebox.com.sg), all Singpost outlets, S.A.M. kiosks, and at STB TicketCube@Orchard.